One Toronto-area mother has taken to Facebook to warn people about the dangerous consequences of skipping out on their recommended vaccines. At the beginning of this month, Meghan Mcnutt-Anderson posted the above photo of her five-week-old daughter, Brielle, on the social media site. Brielle is in the hospital with whooping cough — a preventable disease that can be deadly in very small children.
“This is why you immunize your children!” Mcnutt-Anderson wrote in an angry post that has now been shared over 35,000 times. “We have spent the last 3 days in the hospital at her bedside holding her up and patting her back as she coughs. You see, every time she coughs she stops breathing, turns blue and goes limp. She has too much mucous and her airways are too small to cough it up and they become blocked and we have to manually help her pass it. We will likely be doing this to Brielle for the next 2 weeks at least.”
Babies like Brielle are too young to receive a whooping cough vaccine and are reliant on what’s called herd immunity. If infants come into contact with older individuals who haven’t been vaccinated, they can easily contract the highly contagious bacterial infection.
Over the past several years, North America has been experiencing a dramatic resurgence of whooping cough, a public health issue that’s been directly tied to an increasing number of parents failing to vaccinate their kids. States that allow parents to easily opt their kids out of their recommended shots, like California and Washington, have struggled the most with the spread of this preventable disease.
“If you are considering not immunizing your children, think first about the people you put at risk who CAN’T get the immunization,” Mcnutt-Anderson pointed out in her Facebook post. “If our story makes one parent choose to immunize their children that otherwise wouldn’t have, lives can be saved.”
Mcnutt-Anderson isn’t the only parent trying to spread this message. An Illinois mother whose three sons have a genetic immune system deficiency, and therefore can’t get vaccines themselves, recently published a blog post imploring other parents to help protect them from contracting preventable diseases. Her kids are entirely reliant on herd immunity, and just one unvaccinated classmate could pose a serious threat. “If you are a parent who is vaccine-hesitant or who has chosen not to vaccinate, my plea to you is this: My kids are my heart and soul, just as yours are to you, and I need your help to keep them healthy and safe. I would do the same for you,” she explained.
But it’s already too late for other families, some of whom are now turning their personal tragedies into public health lessons for the broader community. Another mother in Illinois, whose six-day-old infant died from whooping cough two years ago, is currently lobbying the Illinois Department of Health to spread more information about vaccination to prevent other children from dying. And a Massachusetts mother is telling the story of her 9-week-old son’s death to encourage other people to take whooping cough seriously.
In addition to whooping cough, other preventable diseases like measles are also currently making a comeback. The vaccine that prevents measles, mumps, and rubella has been plagued by controversy thanks to the widely debunked theory that it can increase some kids’ risk of autism. Celebrities like Jenny McCarthy and Kristin Cavallari continue to give air time to this dangerous conspiracy theory. Meanwhile, measles outbreaks are worsening across the country, and public health officials are imploring Americans to make sure they’ve gotten all their shots.